A boost to business in southern Scotland in the form of a new enterprise agency has been welcomed by politicians and industry leaders.
The Scottish Government has announced that following a review of enterprise and skills support, it has recommended that a new agency dedicated to the south should be set up, recognising the unique challenges faced in the region.
Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, said: “In our response to the Scottish Government, we outlined that while Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland continue to have a very positive impact in some areas locally, there are fundamental limitations for the Borders of national bodies that do not prioritise regional equity as part of their strategic approach.
“The Scottish Government’s proposal to create a new, dedicated south of Scotland vehicle to meet the needs of the region is a very welcome recognition of the issues that we face here, and the enhanced support that rural areas need.
“As a council, we are fully committed to supporting and developing our local economy and developing the skills of our local people and, through the South of Scotland Alliance, have sought with our partners to push for as much national support as possible.
“The formation of a new regional body to lead on these areas gets my full support, and I look forward to working closely with the new agency and continuing to work with colleagues in Dumfries and Galloway to seek the best possible outcomes for our region.”
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont also welcomed the announcement, which matches one of the key recommendations found in the Scottish Conservative manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.
Mr Lamont said: “I’m pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the concerns of businesses in the south of Scotland.
“A dedicated support agency has the potential to stimulate growth in the local economy, but more needs to be done to help struggling high streets in the Borders.”
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame is all for the new agency too.
She said: “The development of the new enterprise and skills body for the south of Scotland is very welcome indeed and shows the Scottish Government’s commitment to the area, following on from the opening of the Borders Railway last year.
“We have seen the immensely positive effect that Highlands and Islands Enterprise has had on developing local economic opportunities in those areas.
“I’m glad the Scottish Government is seeking to extend this successful model, and I look forward to the south of Scotland body having the same impact as we’ve seen across the Highlands and Islands.”
The Federation of Small Business’s southern Scotland senior development manager, Gordon Henderson, said: “Having an enterprise body based in the south of Scotland that is knowledgeable about issues faced by businesses located there makes a lot of sense.”
The new agency is expected to start work in 2018.